Academic Programs 

Introduction to Islamic Law (ET-640) 
Winter/Spring 2010

This course will provide a critical overview of the history and practice of Islamic law. We begin by examining the origins of Islamic law, the development of the classical schools of jurisprudence and the nature of pre-modern legal institutions, especially the courts and madrasa education. In following classes, we will explore the substance of classical Islamic law, especially in the areas of family, finance and international relations. Next, we will discuss the impact of colonialism and modernity on Islamic legal discourses and institutions and finish with a discussion of the way in which Islamic law is observed in contemporary America.

Meeting Day, Time and Dates:*

*Note: This course is scheduled to begin Monday, January 25th. Registered students will receive an email from Dr. Scott Thumma by January 22th with instructions on how to access the private web site.

Ingrid Mattson
Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations

Contact Information:
(860) 509-9531

Course Syllabus

Course Web Site

This course will provide a critical overview of the history, practice and principles of Islamic law. We begin by examining the origins of Islamic law and the development of the classical schools of jurisprudence, with a primary focus on the Sunni tradition. Next we will discuss the nature of pre-modern Islamic law-related institutions, especially the courts and madrasa education. In following classes, we will explore the substance of classical Islamic law, especially in the areas of family, finance and international relations. Finally, we will discuss the impact of colonialism and modernity on Islamic legal discourses and institutions and finish with a discussion of the way in which Islamic law is observed in contemporary Muslim communities.

This is a vast field to which this course is a modest introduction. The texts I have selected for the course should serve together as a good introduction to the main themes of Islamic jurisprudence. Students need to purchase these books; other readings are available electronically to all registered students.

This is an on-line course that does not require the group to be “present” in the electronic classroom at the same time. Weekly assignments must be completed by 5pm every Sunday night (specific dates to be given with detailed reading list at beginning of class). Once you have registered for the course, you will receive more instruction about the technical aspects of participating.

Participation in class—by reading the assignments, by responding to the instructor’s questions and by engaging in class “discussion”— is crucial to learning. You will be graded for the quantity and quality of your responses to the class readings and to each others comments.

There is a lot of reading to be done each week and you must do it (on the other hand, you are saving a lot of time not having to drive to the Seminary and sit in class for 2 ½ hours each week).

Each student is required to submit one 800 - 1000 word book report during the latter half of the semester, between weeks 8-12. Books must be chosen from those listed at the end of this syllabus, and only one student will be permitted to review any book. Contact me asap about the book you would like to review and the date you will post your report. A good book report should address at least the following aspects of the book: 1) bibliographic aspects (eg, who is the author, his or her relevant credentials 2) originality or, importance of the book relative to other published studies 3) accuracy of the facts 4) quality of the publication.

Final papers must be submitted within four weeks of completion of the course. Papers should be approximately 20 - 25 pages (no big margins, large fonts or triple spacing to fill the paper). For the structure and style of the paper, consult the “Hartford Seminary General Guidelines for a Research Paper.” Paper topics must be approved in advance by the instructor. The student is expected to use not only monographs, but a number of academic articles and/or chapters as sources for the paper. You must search through the Index Islamicus for specialized studies relevent to your topic.

Students must inform themselves about the definition of plagiarism and the sanction that will be applied to those who plagiarize, including by copying text from internet sites. Here are some examples of the kinds of topics a research paper might cover:

  1. Focus on the development of Islamic Law in a specific country during a particular period (eg, India under British occupation, contemporary Malaysia, post-colonial Nigeria, pre-modern Yemen etc.).
    Focus on a particular topic in ritual law and the differences of opinion among schools regarding that subject (e.g., the ritual slaughter of animals).
    Research a topic in the history of Islamic legal education. For example, the changing role of Al-Azhar University in the Muslim world.
    Choose a particular area of law, for example, the law of torts, and make a comparative study between Islamic law and another legal system (e.g., Common Law).
  2. Focus on a prominent historical or contemporary Islamic legal scholar, critically presenting his or her theories their impact on society.

The final grade will be calculated as follows

  1. Participation 30%
  2. Book Report 20%
  3. Final research Paper 50%

*Note: D. Min. students need to contact the instructor for extra assignments.

Required Texts:
Bernard Weiss, The Spirit of Islamic Law, (Athens and London: The University of Georgia Press, 1998).

Mohammad Hashim Kamali, Shari`ah Law: an Introduction (Oxford: Oneworld, 2008).

Muhammad Abu Zahra, The Four Imams, translated by Aisha Bewley (London: Dar al-Taqwa, 2001). [It is better to buy this book because it is gives a rich picture of the theological and legal controversies and their social and political context in early Islam. You will find it a useful reference for many years. For those who do not buy the book, it will be available on the reserve shelf in the library. Students who do not come to campus will have to buy the book or get a friend to copy their section from the reserve copy because I cannot copy the whole book.]

It is probably most efficient for you to order these books on-line. You can go to the Hartford Seminary on-line bookstore: I also recommend that you check out or other on-line book sellers like for good used copies of books.


Week One: Introduction to the Study of Law
H.L.A. Hart, “Law as the Union of Primary and Secondary Rules,” selection in Readings in Philosophy of Law, eds. John Arthur and William H. Shaw (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1984): 30-51.

Lon L. Fuller, “The Morality that Makes Law Possible,” ,” selection in Readings in Philosophy of Law, eds. John Arthur and William H. Shaw (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1984): 52-57.

Week Two: Origins and Philosophy of Islamic Law I
Wael Hallaq, “The pre-Islamic Near East, Muhammad and Quranic Law,” Cpt. 1 of The Origins and Evolution of Islamic Law (Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 8-28.

Weiss, Chapters 1 and 2

Week Three: Philosophy of Islamic Law II
Weiss, Chapters 3 and 4

Week Four: Probabilism and Certainty
Weiss, Chapter 5

Week Five: Foundations of Islamic Law
Kamali, Introduction, Chapters 1 and 2

Week Six: Characteristic Features of Shari`ah
Kamali, Chapter 3

Week Seven: Schools of Law (Madhahib) and Legal Pluralism (Ikhtilaf)
Kamali, Chapters 4 and 5
Abu Zahra: Each student reads about one of the Imams

Week Eight: Goals of Shari`ah (Maqasid) and Maxims (Qawa’id)
Kamali, Chapters 6 and 7

Week Nine: Independent Reasoning (Ijtihad) and Juristic Opinion (Fatwa)
Kamali, Chapter 8
Weiss, Chapter 6
Sam Feldman, “Reason and Analogy: a Comparison of Early Islamic and Jewish Legal Institutions,” UCLA Journal of Islamic and Near Eastern Law 2/1 (Fall/Winter 2002-2003): 129-153.

Week Ten: Legal Institutions and Legal Education
Emile Tyan, “Judicial Organization,” in Origin and Development of Islamic Law, v. 1 or Law in the Middle East, eds. M. Khadduri and H. Liebesny (Washington, DC, 1955): 236-278.

George Makdisi, “Magisterium and Academic Freedom in Classical Islam and Medieval Christianity.” Cpt. in Islamic Law and Jurisprudence, ed. Nicholas Heer (Seattle and Washington: University of Washington Press, 1990): 117-133.

George Makdisi, “Muslim Institutions of Learning in Eleventh-Century Baghdad,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 24 (1961): 1-56.Sample primary texts:
Abu Bakr Ahmed al-Shaybani al-Khassaf (d. 261/875), Adab al-Qadi: Islamic Legal and Judicial System, trans. by Munir Ahmad Mughal (Lahore, Pakistan: Kazi Publications, 1999): 24-44; 189-211.

Abu’l-Hasan al-Mawardi, “Public Order (hisbah),” Cpt. 20 of Yate’s translation of al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah (pp. 337-362).

Week Eleven: Women and Non-Muslim Minorities
Amnon Cohen, “Communal Legal Entities in a Muslim Setting Theory and Practice: The Jewish Community in Sixteenth-Century Jerusalem,” Islamic Law and Society 3, 1 (1996): 75-90.

Rossitsa Gradeva, “Orthodox Christians in the Kadi Courts: The Practice of the Sofia Sheriat Court, Seventeenth Century,” Islamic Law and Society 4, 1 (1997): 37-69.

Ingrid Mattson, “Women, Gender and Family Law: Early Period 7th-Late 18th Centuries, Encyclopedia of Women in Islamic Cultures (Leiden: Brill, 2005).

Abdal-Rehim Abdal-Rahman Abdal-Rahim, “The Family and Gender Laws in Egypt during the Ottoman period,” in Women, the Family, and Divorce Laws in Islamic History, ed. Amira El Azhary Sonbol (Syracuse University Press, 1996): 96-111.

Mohammad Fadel, “Two Women, One Man: Knowledge, Power, and Gender in Medieval Sunni Legal Thought,” IJMES v. 29, no. 2 (May, 1997): 185-204.

Week Twelve: Islamic Law and the State
Kamali, Chapters 9, 10 and 11

Khaled Abou El Fadl, “Islamic Law and Muslim Minorities: The Juristic Discourse on Muslim Minorities from the Second/Eighth to the Eleventh/Seventeenth Centuries,” Islamic Law and Society 1, 2 (August 1994):141-187.

Study the following maps: “European Imperialism in the Muslim World c. 1920,” and “The Achievement of Independence in the Muslim World,” from The Cambridge Illustrated History of the Islamic World, ed. Francis Robinson (Cambridge, 1996), pp. 102, 114-115.

Week Thirteen: Adaptation, Reform, Challenges
Kamali, Chapters 12, 13 and Conclusion

Muhammad Sa´id –‘Ashmawi, “Shari`a: The Codification of Islamic Law,” in Liberal Islam: a sourcebook, ed. Charles Kurzman (Oxford University Press, 1998): 49-56.

Taha Jabir Al Alwani, Fatwa on “The Participation of Muslims in the American Political Process.” (

Mohammad Fadel, “Reinterpreting the Guardian’s Role in the Islamic Contract of Marriage: the Case of the Maliki School,” Journal of Islamic Law 3/1 (1998): 1-26.


Abou El Fadl, Khaled. Rebellion and Violence in Islamic Law (Cambridge University Press, 2003).

Chaleby, Kutaiba S. Forensic Psychiatry in Islamic Jurisprudence (Herndon, VA: International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2001).

Christelow, Allan. Muslim Law Courts and the French Colonial State in Algeria (Princeton University Press, 1985).

Delong-Bas, Natana J. Wahhabi Islam: from revival and reform to global jihad (Oxford University Press, 2004), 93-191.

Distributive Justice and Need Fulfilment in an Islamic Economy, ed. Munawar Iqbal (Leicester, U.K.: The Islamic Foundation, 1988).

Dumper, Michael. Islam and Israel: Muslim Religious Endowments and the Jewish State. Washington: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1994.

Dutton, Yasin. The Origins of Islamic Law: the Qur’an, the Muwatta’ and Madinan ‘Amal (London: Curzon Press, 1999).

Eisenman, Robert H. Islamic Law in Palestine and Israel: a History of the Survival of Tanzimat and Shari’a in the British Mandate and Jewish State. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1978.

El-Dakkak, M. Shokry. Repentance as a Defense: Comparative Study under Islamic Law, Common Law and Continental Law (Kuala Lumpur: A.S. Noordeen, 1994).

Fareed, Muneer Goolam. Legal Reform in the Muslim World: the Anatomy of a Scholarly Dispute in the 19th and 20th Centuries on the Usage of Ijtihad as a Legal Tool (San Francisco: Austin and Winfield, 1996).

Feldman, Noah. After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003).

Gerber, Haim. State, Society, and Law in Islam: Ottoman Law in Comparative Perspective (Albany: State University of New York, 1994).

Hallaq, Wael B. The Origins and Evolution of Islamic Law (Cambridge University Press, 2005).

Haneef, Sayed Sikandar Shah. Homicide in Islam: Legal Structure and the Evidence Requirements (Kuala Lumpur: A.S. Noordeen, 2000).

Haykel, Bernard. Revival and Reform in Islam: the Legacy of Muhammad al-Shawkani (Cambridge University Press, 2003).

Hirsch, Susan F. Pronouncing and Persevering: gender and the discourses of disputing in an African Islamic Court (University of Chicago Press, 1998).

Islam and European Legal Systems, eds. Silvio Ferrari and Anthony Bradney (Ashgate Press, 2000).

Islamic Legal Interpretation: Muftis and Their Fatwas
, ed. by Muhammad Khalid Masud, Brinkley Messick and David S. Powers (Harvard University Presss, 1996).

Islamic Political Ethics: civil society, pluralism and conflict, ed. Sohail H. Hashmi (Princeton University Press, 2002).

Johansen, Baber. Contingency in Sacred Law: Legal and Ethical Norms in the Muslim Fiqh (Leiden: Brill, 1998).

Johansen, Baber. The Islamic Law on Land Tax and Rent: the peasants’ loss of property rights as interpreted in the Hanafite literature of the Mamluk and Ottoman Period (London and New York: Methuen, 1988).

Kamali, Mohammed Hashim. Islamic Commercial Law: An Analysis of Futures and Options (Islamic Texts Society, 2000).

Kamali, Mohammad Hashim. Freedom of Expression in Islam (Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society, 1997).

Keller, Nuh Ha Mim. Port in a Storm: a Fiqh Solution to the Qibla of North America (Amman: Wakeel Books, 2001).

Kozlowski, Gregory C. Muslim Endowments and Society in British India (Cambridge University Press, 1985).

Layish, Aharon. Divorce in the Libyan Family: a study based on the sijils of the Shari`ah courts of Ajdabiyya and Kufra (New York University Press, 1991).

Malekian, Farhad. The Concept of Islamic International Criminal Law: a comparative study (Graham and Trotman, 1994).

Mallat, Chibli. Islam and Public Law: Classical and Contemporary Studies (Kluwer Law International, 1993).

The Most Learned of the Shi`a: the institution of the Marja` Taqlid. ed. Linda S. Walbridge (Oxford, 2001).

Neusner, Jacob and Tamara Sonn. Comparing Religions through Law: Judaism and Islam (Routledge, 1999).

Owsia, Parviz. Formation of Contract: a comparative study under English, French, Islamic and Iranian Law (Graham and Trotman, 1994).

Peters, Rudolph. Crime and Punishment in Islamic Law: Theory and Practice from the Sixteenth to the Twenty-first Century (Cambridge University Press, 2005).

Quraishi, Asifa and Frank E. Vogel. The Islamic Marriage Contract: Case Studies in Islamic Family Law (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008).

al-Raysuni, Ahmad. Imam al-Shatibi’s Theory of the Higher Objectives and Intents of Islamic Law (Herndon, VA: International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2005).

Reinhart, Kevin A. Before Revelation: the Boundaries of Muslim Moral Thought. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995.

Religion, Law and Society: A Christian-Muslim Discussion (ed. Tarek Mitri. Geneva: WCC Publications, 1995).

Rosen, Lawrence. The Justice of Islam (Oxford University Press, 2000).

Sachedina, Abdulaziz. The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).

Saeed, Abdullah. Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam (Ashgate Press, 2003).

Saleh, Nabil A. Unlawful Gain and Legitimate Profit in Islamic Law: Riba, Gharar and Islamic Banking (Graham and Trotman, 1992).

Siddiqi, Muhammad Nejatullah. Partnership and Profit-Sharing in Islamic Law (London: The Islamic Foundation, 1985).

Stewart, Devin. Islamic Legal Orthodoxy: Twelver Shiite Responses to the Sunni Legal System (University of Utah Press, 1998).

Tucker, Judith E. In the House of the Law: Gender and Islamic Law in Ottoman Syria and Palestine (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998).

Wegner, Judith Romney. Chattel or Person? The Status of Women in the Mishnah (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988).

Women, the Family and Divorce Laws in Islamic History. Ed. Amira El Azhary Sonbol (Syracuse University Press, 1996).

Vogel, Frank. Islamic Law and Legal System: Studies of Saudi Arabia (Leiden: Brill, 2000).

Vogel, Frank and Samuel L. Hayes, III. Islamic Law and Finance: Religion, Risk, and Return (The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1998).

Zubaida, Sami. Law and Power in the Islamic World (I.B. Taurus, 2003).

Hartford Seminary  77 Sherman Street  Hartford, CT  06105   860-509-9500